You have likely read much about the importance of creating your own personal brand to convey the value you will provide to your next employer. For their part, savvy companies expend considerable resources to develop their own employer brands. They understand the importance of identifying themselves as truly desirable places to work to attract the best possible pool of job candidates.
When job hunting, it is important to look not only for a paycheck, but beyond. What will it mean for you in the longer term if you accept a position at this or that particular company? Once you begin working, your brand and theirs begin to merge. Moreover, in future years, how people think of you will, in part, be shaped by their perception of the place or places at which you have worked.
Would you be happy having this or that company's reputation rub off on you? As you examine what companies you want to target, it is important to investigate and answer for yourself these questions:
1. What is the reputation of the company's products/services? Is this company known for its integrity in the marketplace, and does it stand behind whatever it sells? Does the company offer products of value at reasonable prices? Would you buy the goods or services this company offers, or would you look elsewhere?
2. What is the employer's value proposition for its employees? What does the company say on its website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, job ads and during interviews about what it is like to work there? Is its message consistent over all these platforms? Beyond a paycheck, what makes it worthwhile to work for this company? Are current employees happy or disgruntled?
Value might lie in its culture, as well as opportunities for ongoing training, learning and professional advancement. Does the company provide the necessary tools and atmosphere for you to excel at whatever your job would entail?
You can find answers to some of these kinds of questions on sites like Glassdoor.com and Vault.com. It's also worth connecting with the company's former employees on LinkedIn to get their take. Ultimately, however, you need to be very observant when you visit the company for an interview to make your own judgments.
3. Is the hiring process respectful of candidates as people? If you apply through the company's site, is your application acknowledged? If the hiring managers promise to be back to you about the next step in the process in a given time frame, are they true to their word? Do interviewers act in a friendly and courteous fashion, or do they treat the interview as a trial by fire?
To be sure, the volume of applicants remains high for any great job. But even if the human resources team can't get back to you personally, do they configure their systems to give you at least some kind of automated acknowledgement that they've received your résumé?
4. Do current employees seem engaged with their work? As you walk around the company, be observant of the overall environment. Are people smiling? Intense? Bored? Do employees seem happy to be there? Can you cut the tension in the air with a knife? What tone of voice do you hear people in the company using when conversing with each other?
5. Do current employees tell good stories? Often, employees will be featured on the employment area of a company's site. It is worth looking at these testimonials, and comparing the message that the company is sending through them to what you observe with your own eyes. Do they match up? Are the stories compelling, and do they resonate with you?
6. What is the company's management style? Does the company encourage or stymie individual innovation and creativity? Do the managers micromanage, provide reasonable direction and support or are they unavailable when needed?
7. How is the company viewed in the community? What are its corporate values? Does it support the community in which it is located? Does it somehow make the world a better place?
The larger question becomes: Is there a natural fit between the company's employee brand and your personal brand? When there is that confluence, you are not only most likely to be hired, but to become satisfied in your new position.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.